Public Defender Matt Shirk exchanged dozens of text messages with a former female employee whom his wife confronted because of inappropriate text messages, according to Shirk’s cellphone records.
Shirk has acknowledged that he exchanged text messages with former employee Tiffany Ice, and has admitted some of those messages were inappropriate, but he hasn’t been willing to go into detail about the messages.
The records provide some detail about the exchanges between Ice and Shirk. The documents show the dates and times a text was sent or received by Shirk.
The heavily redacted documents show that from early May to early June, Shirk exchanged 52 text messages with the phone number belonging to Ice, then the Public Defender’s data-entry operator.
The redactions, which sometimes include an entire day’s worth of exchanges and the dates of those exchanges, were made by Matt Shirk without the input of Rogers Towers Law Firm, which was tapped by Shirk to help the Public Defender’s Office fulfill records requests on a pro-bono basis.
The messages between Shirk and Ice that are visible on the documents were sent on weekdays during typical work hours.
The redacted documents do not show any text messages exchanged between Shirk and the cellphone number belonging to Kayle Chester. Chester is a former legal assistant at the office and former employee of the Whisky River nightclub. She and Shirk were perceived by some in the office to have an unusually close relationship.
Chester, Ice and a third woman who is a friend of Chester’s and also was an employee of Whisky River were all fired in June from the Public Defender’s Office after Shirk’s wife confronted Ice in the office.
The Times-Union asked Matt Shirk and Public Defender’s Office spokesman Matt Bisbee whether Shirk redacted any information from his phone records showing communication with Ice, Chester or any other subordinate.
Neither Shirk nor Bisbee responded. A statement by the office said the redactions “were private, personal communications.”
The content of the messages between Ice and Shirk are unknown.
Shirk has admitted sending his subordinates, including Ice, inappropriate text messages. He wouldn’t go into detail about the nature of the messages but said he sent Ice “funny e-cards.” Michelle Shirk wouldn’t go into detail, but she told the Times-Union the messages were more than just e-cards.
What was contained in those text messages prompted Shirk’s wife to visit the Public Defender’s Office in June and confront Ice about Ice’s relationship with Shirk.
Shortly after Michelle Shirk’s confrontation with Ice, Chester, Ice and the third woman were fired.
Ice’s personnel file shows she was placed on a 30-day improvement plan in November 2012, at the end of her first 90 days, for errors in her work. She was recommended to be retained in January. The personnel file provided to the Times-Union shows no further complaints about her work until June. Ice’s June 25 termination letter said she was fired for continued errors.
Ice’s attorney, Bill Sheppard, had scheduled a “name-clearing hearing” for Ice last week at the Public Defender’s Office. But the hearing was canceled because Sheppard didn’t like the proposed structure of the hearing.
Sheppard instead sent a letter stating that the Public Defender’s Office’s termination for Ice was incorrect and false in several areas. Sheppard wrote that Ice wasn’t written up for any mistakes while at the office.
The letter acknowledges that Ice made some mistakes early in her employment, but it said that’s because Ice received less training than her predecessor.
On Aug. 29, Gov. Rick Scott appointed special prosecutor Bill Cervone to investigate Shirk’s office.